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Food & Drink

How Dunkin' Donuts Convinced Californians to Stand in a Massive Line

People lining up on Labor Day for the grand opening of a Dunkin' Donuts store in Santa Monica, Calif.

Photograph by John M. Heller/Getty Images

People lining up on Labor Day for the grand opening of a Dunkin' Donuts store in Santa Monica, Calif.

It was not the newest iPhone or a rare, coveted pastry such as a Cronut that drew a crowd to line up and wait. It was the grand opening—at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday—of the very first Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) store in Southern California. Media accounts trace the origins of the line to Sunday night.

Perhaps Californians (and the East Coast transplants who grew up with the chain) are desperate for Coolattas and Munchkins. Still, Dunkin’ offered additional incentives to help ensure a line-waiting spectacle. The first person to queue outside an Apple Store (AAPL) leaves with the new iPhone; the first person in line for Santa Monica’s latest fast-food chain gets a year of free coffee. Dunkin’ also promised lesser freebies to the first 100 customers, a marketing effort that appears to have been remarkably effective.

This isn’t even the first Dunkin’ Donuts location in California. The company recently opened a restaurant in Modesto, up north, and plans to open about 200 restaurants in California over the next several years—and someday to have more than 1,000 in the state.

Here’s a very dark video of the line in Santa Monica before sunrise:

And here’s how one particularly zealous customer expressed her devotion.


Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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